Ignorance Lack of knowledge or information. Ignorance contributes to bias in a forecast, which in turn can cause surprise.

Individual bias Prejudice held by a human being.

Influence diagram Compact graphical or mathematical representation of the decision-making process.

Intuitive view Opinion that the future is too complex to be adequately forecast using statistical techniques but should instead rely primarily on the opinions or judgment of experts.

Long-term forecasts Forecasts of the deep future (10 or more years from the present).

Measurement of interest Key characteristic that can be monitored to anticipate the development of disruptive technologies and applications.

Medium-term forecasts Forecasts of the intermediate future (typically 5 to 10 years from the present).

Morpher Technology that creates one or more new technologies when combined with another technology.

Persistent forecast Forecast that is continually improved as new methodologies, techniques, or data become available.

Scenario Tool for understanding the complex interaction of a variety of forces that can influence future events (meaning in this report).

Short-term forecasts Forecasts that focus on the near future (5 years or less from the present).

Signal Piece of data, a sign, or an event that is relevant to the identification of a potentially disruptive technology.

Signpost Recognized and actionable potential future event that could indicate an upcoming disruption.

Superseder New, superior technology that obviates an existing technology by replacing it.

Surprise Being taken unawares by some unexpected event.1

Techno cluster Geographic concentration of interconnected science- and high-tech-oriented businesses, suppliers, and associated institutions.

Technological innovation Successful execution of a fundamentally new technology or key development in the performance of an existing product or service.

Technology forecasting Prediction of the invention, timing, characteristics, dimensions, performance, or rate of diffusion of a machine, material, technique, or process serving some useful purpose.2

Technology forecasting system Technologies, people, and processes assembled to minimize surprise triggered by emerging or disruptive technologies, in order to support decision making.

Tipping point Time at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable (Walsh, 2007).

Trend extrapolation Forecasting method in which data sets are analyzed to identify trends that can provide predictive capability.

TRIZ A forecasting system that uses a set of rules, termed “laws of technological evolution,” that describe how technologies change throughout their lifetimes because of innovation and other factors, resulting in the development of new products, applications, and technologies.


Adapted from the Oxford English Dictionary, available at http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/ignorance?view=uk. Last accessed August 25, 2009.


The committee modified the definition of Martino (1969) to reflect the evolving practice of technology forecasting; accordingly, it included the rate of diffusion, which is a critical element in modern forecasting, and defined technology to include materials.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement